Right to tertiary education fundamental right of Malaysians in Information Age

Speech (3)
13th DAP National Congress
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Kuala Lumpur,  Saturday): Educationally, the country is faced with a multitude of crisis, whether over the Damansara Chinese primary school controversy, Vision schools, mother-tongue education or  how the nation  could transform itself into a K-economy, which requires not only the expansion of the quantity but also the improvement of the quality of higher education in Malaysia by resolving in particular the controversy of fair universities admission at public universities.

In a knowledge-based economy,  the generation and utilization of knowledge contribute to a significant part in economic growth and wealth creation.  While the traditional factors of production, that is labour, capital, raw materials and
entrepreneurship, remain important, knowledge will be the key factor driving growth, creating new value and providing the basis to remain competitive.

In fact, in the new world of  K-economy, higher education is no longer a luxury but essential to national social and economic development. This is because participation in the knowledge economy requires a new set of human skills. People need to have higher qualifications and to be  capable of greater intellectual independence.

If  Malaysia is to meet the  challenge to transform itself into a K-economy, the time has come for Malaysia to  declare and recognise the right of every Malaysian to tertiary education!

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has recently sent out mixed messages about the “shock therapy” for bumiputra university students to ensure excellence and quality in public universities.

Since the seventies, the DAP had consistently advocated that the proper policy for university admissions is one of merit coupled with  needs which would meet the twin objectives of ensuring  that our institutions of higher learning maintain the highest academic excellence as well ensuring that the economically and socially disadvantaged would receive special preferential consideration in enjoying  higher education opportunities.

The Malaysian reality has always been  such that the main beneficiaries of the second policy component of  needs would be the bumiputera students, although it would not be completely confined to them.

There is then the issue of meritocracy for  academic appointments and promotions in the public universities, which  has nothing to do whatsoever with the question of bumiputra student university admissions - but has everything do with maintaining excellence and quality in public universities, affecting both bumiputra and non-bumiputra students.

How can there be merit and excellence among our university students if merit and excellence are not the most important criteria for appointments and promotions for  the academic staffs in all universities ?

Isn’t this the reason why Malaysian public universities had fared poorly  in terms of educational excellence and quality when compared  with other universities, whether in Asia or internationally?

If Malaysia is  establish  a quality higher-education system the envy of other nations and where academic excellence is the motto for all academicians and students, then the first thing he must do is to introduce merit as the most important criteria for all academic appointment and promotions, starting with the appointment of qualified non-Malay Vice Chancellors in the country.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman